Steam finally adds voice chat and flexible friend lists in new beta

Ruben Fields
June 13, 2018

The most recent beta version of the Steam gaming platform client for desktop systems comes with a new chat system that modernizes Steam's somewhat dated chat experience.

The very first thing that you may notice is that the chat interface is now detached from the main interface.

I touched on it before, but Steam's voice-chat feature was horrendously insecure before, blaring out your IP address anytime you spoke. The company didn't elaborate on the general improvements, but it did say that you can quickly see if your friends are in a voice chat right from your friends list, and that you should notice "clear, crisp voice quality before, during, and after your games". Soon, the AOL-esque chat of yore will be gone, replaced by the slick, fancy Discord chat of the present. "Persistent groups" and channels are supported, and Valve also promised improved security via "a new WebRTC-based backend".

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In-line images, video, tweets, audio, and other media can now be shared in the chat client, and you'll be able to share trade offer links as well.

Next comes the new group chats. It only takes one click to create, join, or leave a channel. As a result, voice chat uses high-quality Opus encoding, voice traffic is encrypted, and all traffic is sent through Steam servers rather than directly to peers. As the new overhaul is only available in the client to Steam beta users, interested parties will need to go to the client's Settings and opt into the Steam Beta Update in the Accounts tab.

This Steam Chat update looks a lot like Discord, another gaming-centric chat platform which has been called the "Slack for gamers."

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